Bus driver wins apology from school board after kicking off student

The Edmonton Catholic School Board now says it was wrong to have called for the firing of a school bus driver who kicked a Grade 7 student off his bus for bad behaviour 10 blocks from his stop.

Video shows 2nd student hitting driver with duffel bag

Time lapse video taken on an Edmonton school bus 1:40

The Edmonton Catholic School Board now says it was wrong to have called for the firing of a school bus driver who kicked a Grade 7 student off his bus for bad behaviour 10 blocks from his stop.

"In light of the second video showing an assault on the driver, we realize we should not have requested the driver's termination and have apologized to his employer, Cunningham Transportation Service, and will be apologizing to the driver as soon as we can reach him," board spokeswoman Lori Nagy said in statement Tuesday.

The new video, provided by the bus company, shows the Grade 7 student, who is in the seat directly behind the driver, getting out of his seat to punch and kick another student, believed to be in Grade 3, several times. There is no audio. The incidents take place on May 25.

A second student, who according to Nagy is in Grade 8, then walks up behind the driver before winding up and driving his duffel bag into the side of the driver's head.

Physical violence had already been threatened against him.—Laura Doroshenko, Cunningham Transport operations manager

When the bag hits his face, the driver's glasses slide down his nose. He is seen taking a deep breath, removing his glasses and rubbing his face.

Laura Doroshenko, operations manager for Cunningham Transport, said she believes the boy was angry that he had not been let off the bus earlier.

After that, the Grade 7 student begins gesturing with his middle finger and pointing repeatedly toward the driver.

While the driver steers around corners, he can be seen using his radio. The student keeps talking, and at times the driver and the boy appear to be arguing.

The driver finally stops the bus and throws the boy's backpack off the bus. He then directs the student off the bus as well.

Doroshenko said the student threatened to throw his backpack at the driver. That's why he was kicked off the bus 10 blocks from home, she said.

"The driver felt at the time that this was the safest location for the student in question, but also to ensure the safety of the students on board," she said in a written statement.

"Physical violence had already been threatened against him and he was worried about the other students."

Bus company refused to fire driver

After the district viewed earlier video captured on a student's mobile device showing the bus driver ejecting the student from the bus, it demanded the driver be fired. The company refused, but removed the driver from any Catholic district routes. 

The district retracted its demand after media organizations posted the second video.

Doroshenko said the driver had just installed the dashcam the afternoon of the incidents after exchanges with students on the morning run alerted him to potential trouble on the route home.

Nagy points out the driver still failed to follow the rules, which state students can only be dropped off at designated stops for safety reasons.

Doroshenko said the bus company will be improving its policies around drivers experiencing trouble on the road in light of the driver trying to call dispatch to no avail. 

"He had tried to radio in a couple of times," she said.  "We were really busy. He didn't indicate he was having an emergency at the time. He was just radioing in.

"There was a lot of other people doing the same thing. He just got lost in the shuffle."

The school district has not said what, if any, further punishment the students, who were originally suspended from the bus for one week, might face.

"The district does not in any way condone the behaviour of the two students involved in the separate incidents on the bus and the principals for both students were made aware of the situation so that they could take measures which they have."

Doroshenko said the driver has worked with the company for five years, but had been on that route for only two weeks.

The company claims the route has a high turnover for drivers.